Lionel Messi plays down importance of Pep Guardiola return to the Camp Nou

Messi Close Up

The Argentine star says he hasn't maintained contact with Pep Guardiola, ahead of the Champions League clash between Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

When the Champions League draw paired Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, it provided a mouth watering opportunity for Pep Guardiola to pit his wits, against his former club.

At what is a rare press conference appearance for Lionel Messi, asked if Guardiola's knowledge of himself and his Barcelona team-mates will provide an advantage for Bayern Munich, Lionel Messi responded:

"He knows us all very well and was here with us for a long time. We experienced a lot of important things, we won a lot of titles. He doesn't just know me, but most of the players, including ones we have now, who weren't around when he was. Guardiola studies everything carefully and leaves nothing to chance."

Asked if he's maintained any contact with his former manager, the Argentine star explained: "Since Pep left, we haven't seen much of one another, aside from a FIFA event, but apart from that we haven't had any relationship. There was a good relationship when he was our manager, but we haven't really kept in touch since then."

The managerial relationship theme also led to Messi being questioned about his current boss, following suggestions earlier in the year of a bust up with Luis Enrique.

The 28-year-old stressed: "I'll make it clear now: we didn't have any problems and our relationship is good, just as it is with all my team-mates, so there's no problems."

Last time Bayern Munich crossed paths with Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals, the German side emerged victorious. Questioned whether that presents an opportunity for revenge, Messi suggested:

"We're just keen to play this game, because it's a semi-final. They're a great team. How that semi-final turned out, hurt us, but a lot of time has passed since then. I think we head into this one differently, them too. It's another knock-out tie and different compared to that one."

Messi isn't putting faith in Bayern Munich being any weaker, despite injury problems, pointing out: "It wasn't a problem for us in 2013 and it won't be now for Bayern. We're both great teams, with plenty of history and an abundance of players in our squads. Injuries aren't an excuse for them, or for us. Both clubs are too great to look for any excuses like these."

Unwilling to make predictions, in Messi's view: "At this stage, there's no favourites. These are both great teams, so you can't have a favourites. Both teams have great players and there's no favourites in the semi-finals."

Two matches from reaching the Champions League final, already in the Copa del Rey final and top of La Liga, when it comes to the possibility of achieving an impressive treble this season, Messi explained: 

"The sensations we have are very good, but we're also calm and relaxed, taking things one step at a time and without looking beyond that. There's not long until the end of the season, we're very close now  and we have to keep going calmly."

In what has been another spectacular campaign for the footballing maestro, when it comes to individual honours, Messi confessed: "What matters to me are collective titles. Last season we didn't win anything and now we want to achieve something important, and that's what takes you to individual honours."

By the standards of Messi, his form wasn't as stellar during the 2013-14 season. Asked if he'd lost any of his passion for playing, he acknowledged: "Last year was very difficult for me, because of what I experienced on and off the pitch. I had injuries and I was out of action for a while. I wasn't the way I wanted to be. When this season started, everything was different. I feel really good now."

Given how powerfully the Messi, Neymar, Suarez trio has been this season, asked if it's the best threesome he's played in, the Argentine cautiously replied: "I can't say that. I've been fortunate enough to play with so many excellent footballers, for me to choose. I've enjoyed playing alongside all my team-mates, but I can't choose.

Finally and regarding his personal responsibility, whether he views himself as a leader for Barcelona, Messi suggested: "I've always said that I just consider myself one more member of a squad, which has lots of important players. We're all equal and we all have the right to feel how we want to."

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